Sunday, August 29, 2010

Topless in Guelph

FEMINISM - In 1991 an University of Guelph student named Gwen Jacobs was arrested for being topless in public.

That charge was later overturned. A few years later in 1996 the Ontario Court of Appeals made it legal for women to be topless.

14 years later however two Guelph women (who say they still get weird looks when they’re topless in public) organized the Top Freedom Day of Pride event on August 28th at St. George Square in downtown Guelph.

Its not a march or protest. Its more like a festival for people, both men and women, to go shirtless. They hope to organize another event next year on the last Saturday of August in an effort to promote topless or topfree rights.

As usual at such events men were clicking photos and smiling at the spectacle. About 50 male observers attended the event and watched with amusement.

Organizers Andrea Crinklaw and Lindsay Webb, both University of Guelph students, were among the first to peel off their tops. A handful of other women joined in as the hour wore on. Crinklaw and Webb say women may have won the legal freedom to be topless in public, but they don’t have the social freedom to do because there's still a stigma about it. They hope to help desensitize the public to the female breast.

“We want to have a safe space here for women to exercise their right to be top free,” says co-organizer Andrea Crinklaw. “So here it is!”

“Women, we want you to be empowered. Men, we want you to be supportive. And everybody, be respectful,” says Crinklaw.

“What I don’t like is what the men are going to do with the photographs they’re taking,” said one 64-year-old woman who sat nearby and was tempted to take part in the event.

“If it could be like in Europe where women are able to be top-free on the beaches or roller blade down the street without a shirt and people aren’t appalled by it — that would be amazing,” says Crinklaw.

Live music and professional body painters at the event helped to add to the festival like atmosphere. By late afternoon people were dancing, laughing and mingling and nude from the waist up.

“We got over ankles,” said a local man in his fifties who had his chest painted. “Why can’t we get over breasts?”